UPDATE 1-Alan Murray to leave the WSJ for Pew Research Center

Fri Nov 2, 2012 8:29pm EDT

Nov 2 (Reuters) - Alan Murray, deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, will leave in January to assume the role of president of the Pew Research Center, the center announced on Friday.

Murray, 57, is also the Journal's online executive editor. In his new role he will oversee the Pew Research Center's seven projects covering topics ranging from journalism to religion to social trends.

"I have watched in the last 30 years as trusted facts have become an endangered species," Murray told Reuters in an interview.

As part of the Washington-based Pew Charitable Trusts, the non-partisan Pew Research Center's mission is to inform the press, public and policy makers. Murray, in the statement announcing his appointment, described the Center as a "rock of reliable information amidst a sea of supposition and spin."

Murray was considered a candidate to succeed Managing Editor Robert Thomson, who is widely considered to be the front-runner to lead News Corp's publishing company after the company splits next year. Murray's departure paves the way for Deputy Editor Gerard Baker, whose name has surfaced as a successor to Thomson.

News Corp plans to split into two separate companies in 2013, with its publishing assets in one company and its television and film properties in the other.

The Wall Street Journal and News Corp declined to comment. Murray declined to comment about a successor to his Journal position. Baker and Thomson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Murray started with the Journal in 1983 and served in various positions, including Washington bureau chief. During his tenure the newspaper won three Pulitzer Prizes.

Known as a thought leader in the industry for digital news, Murray helped grow and expand the Journal's online operations, considered to be one of the industry's most successful.

In a memo to employees, Thomson said of Murray that "no words can capture the gratitude I have for his enduring contribution to the Journal and to journalism."

Raju Narisetti will succeed Murray, a Wall Street Journal spokeswoman said. Narisetti was named managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network in January.

Murray said he had been talking with the Pew Center since the summer but that his decision had nothing to do with the Journal's change of ownership from the Bancroft family to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

"I think Rupert Murdoch and Robert Thomson have saved this paper," Murray told Reuters.

News Corp acquired Dow Jones and Co, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, in 2007.